Posted on Friday, 5th March 2021
Employers have a legal duty to protect their employees from harm in the workplace. One of the most important pieces of legislation for outlining this duty is the Health and Safety etc Act 1974. Today’s blog takes a look at this legislation, and highlights a few key areas that employers need to be aware of.
The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA) is the primary piece of legislation that covers occupational health and safety in the UK. This act sets out the responsibilities of employers to ensure they meet the minimum requirements of protecting the health and safety of staff in their place of work.
HSWA covers the general duties required by employers, employees, contracted personnel, or any other type of worker when it comes to occupational health and safety. It lays out the responsibilities that employers have towards employees and members of the public, and the obligations employees have to themselves and their co-workers. HSWA applies to every workplace, no matter the size of the company, or the sector they work in.
The UK has a nationwide health and safety act to ensure that employers are doing all they can to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their employees at work. The act enshrines in law the employer’s responsibility to make their workplace as safe as possible, and to manage the health and wellbeing of their employees.
This means employers can face serious legal consequences if workers are injured in the workplace due to poor working conditions or unsafe practice. This could include workers being asked to operate in unsuitable conditions, or complete dangerous work without the appropriate equipment or training. Consequences of failing to meet the HSWA requirements include heavy fines, reputational damage, and potentially even prison sentences.
While much of the Health and Safety etc Act legislation specifically applies to employers, employees and self-employed workers are also covered by this act. It's incredibly important that every worker is doing all they can to ensure good health and safety practice on site.
As the HSWA covers a lot of areas in significant detail, it may be difficult for many employers to read the complete documentation, but it is essential they understand their legal responsibilities. Here, we have provided a brief Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 summary to guide you through some of the main points of the legislation:
Employers need to ensure all workers are given the appropriate information and training to conduct their specific roles on site safely. If employees take on new roles with new risks, they need to have completed the necessary training for these responsibilities. In addition, every workplace should have the health and safety law poster displayed in a place that is easy and accessible to read.
Every workplace needs to have somebody appointed to manage health and safety on site. This person will ensure that health and safety policy is in place, and that procedures are being followed.
While specific qualifications are not required by law, formal training may help the person in the role implement safe practice in the workplace. Appointed persons may consider completing our IOSH Managing Safely or IOSH Leading Safely courses to help them fulfil this role effectively.
Every workplace with five or more employees needs to have a written health and safety policy in place. These policies need to outline how the organisation manages health and safety, the measures it puts in place to protect worker health, and how they will respond in the event of a medical emergency.
The safest workplaces are ones where the workers feel valued. Involving them when creating and updating health and safety policy will provide employers with unique insight into the health and safety risks workers face every day. Including staff in health and safety conversations will also make them feel more engaged with the process, creating a culture of safety in the workplace.
The HSWA enshrines in law the need for workplaces to report certain injuries, near-misses, and cases of work-related disease to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). This is a process known as RIDDOR, which stands for Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013.
For further guidance, information, and advice on health and safety law, we would advise reading the legislation in full over the HSE website.
HSWA does not just apply to employers, employees also have obligations to meet. According to section 7 of the act, all employees have the duty to take 'reasonable care' of themselves and "any other persons who may be affected by their acts or omissions at work." They also have to the duty to meet the health and safety provisions imposed by their employer, and to co-operate with their employers to meet the obligations laid out by HSWA.
If you want to understand more about the fundamentals of health and safety in the workplace, why not look into completing our Office Health and Safety course. This provides learners with transferable health and safety knowledge that can be applied to any sort of office workplace environment.
If you work in the construction industry and want a formal understanding of the health and safety risks involved, you may want to complete the CITB Health and Safety Awareness (HSA) course. Completing either will allow you to apply for your CSCS green labourer card.
If you want to know more about the health and safety training employers need to provide by law, why not read our blog ‘8 Health and Safety Courses Every Company Needs’.
For further courses, why not check out our online course index to find the training that’s right for you. You can also contact the ESS team directly by calling 0115 8970 529 or by emailing [email protected].